The Importance Of Community Involvement For Children
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The Importance Of Community Involvement For Children To Enhance Kids Learning
Community Involvement provides long term benefits in early childhood by providing a sense of belonging and is essential to the building of their identity. Children grow emotionally, physically, and mentally not only through their relationships with family but through their communities as well.
In the following article, we will discuss creating a community, why community matters, how getting your child involved in their community impacts their emotional, physical, and mental health, and ways to get your child involved in their community.
What is community and how do we create community?
Community is defined as the following: “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” A community is a group of people that work together to improve their local area. Community is important for all of its members, including children and young people.
What is the purpose of creating a community?
A sense of belonging somewhere is a fundamental need of humans. We are social animals and having both a close-knit group of family and friends, as well as a wider circle of connections, is critical to our overall wellbeing and happiness.
What is required to create a community?
For some of us, creating our own communities will require re-learning how to parse social cues, eye contact and posture as we have filled our lives with too much busyness and not enough real connection.
Community requires learning how to give freely and openly. In essence, it requires a certain amount of vulnerability, especially when one may not feel equipped to handle being vulnerable.
Practical steps for building community
There are few things you can do to build a thriving community. They are:
- Remember the goals and purpose of the community you are trying to build
- Staying in touch with people, fostering the sense of belonging
- Seeking opportunities to learn new skills
- Involve all of your members- The community is for them after all.
- Empower your members-allow them to feel confident in their abilities to help your community thrive.
Remember your community goals
In order to participate in a community, you have to create one first. A good community has a strong sense of purpose. So, when building a community, whether it’s in your own home, your neighborhood, or your job, keep your purpose in mind as you go about your everyday contributions.
Stay in touch
Communities are built around a common goal or goals, but they are created so that people can feel a sense of kinship and belonging. Staying in touch with your community by sending a note or an email to members lets them feel valued and still a valuable part of the group. Newsletters, whether traditional or electronic, are also a great way to keep all members in touch.
Seek new opportunities for learning and growth
When members of the community seek to learn and grow within the community, it helps the community move forward and progress as well. Innovation is an important part of community growth. Staying up-to-date on the latest trends or developments and sharing them with the community, attending lectures and classes, or just simple outreach programs can create learning and growth opportunities.
Involve all members
In any group, there are leaders and there are followers. While some members may be perfectly happy to participate in events or take leadership roles, some will be more tentative. New members to any group will naturally feel some shyness or uncertainty of their sense of place in the community.
Newer members may need special attention to help them feel welcome. Also, it is important to understand that not everyone will be outgoing, and some will be happier to play more of a background role.
Empower your members
Try to learn a little background about each of your community members. By finding what inspires them, scares them, or gives them purpose, you can tailor tasks or events that play to each members’ strength. For example, if you are leading a group of volunteers at a soup kitchen and you know that one member is shy, you can assign them a clean up role away from the crowds.
Why does community matter?
Creating communities is a fundamental need for humans. Our overall wellbeing and happiness depends largely on both our intimate, tight knit social circles, and our wider social circles, like at our works, our neighborhoods, and in our cities.
Threats to community
Recently there has been a major threat to communities around the world, as the Covid-19 pandemic swept through the world. In one study, conducted by the University of Houston, it was demonstrated that the mental health impacts of the pandemic are far reaching and potentially devastating, especially for our children.
Another threat to the community is the growing fragmentation of media and social networks. The trend of disliking or distancing oneself from anyone who doesn’t have the same viewpoint leads to fractures in previously close-knit communities and leads to isolation and homogenization. For example, neighbors who used to socialize together may not anymore because of different political views, which have become more pronounced by cable news networks.
Community plays a vital role in the development of young minds. These benefits extend to the younger members of the community and have a great impact on the emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing of children.
How does community involvement impact a child’s life?
Community involvement for a child has many positive impacts on their life. It helps forge key relationships outside their parents, it helps foster a sense of belonging, fosters meaningful friendships, helps children learn new skills, networking and learning about different career paths for future jobs.
Communities support a child’s active participation in their world around them, and not only that but connects them as well as their families to supportive resource networks that help support everyone involved.
Community involvement teaches gratitude
When children get involved in their communities, they learn that not everyone has the same access to food, clothing, and shelter. It teaches them compassion and empathy as well as appreciation for what they do have.
Forming positive peer relationships with other adults
Forming positive adult-child relationships can help foster a positive outlook on life and raise a child’s self-esteem, which lead to happy and productive members of society. Having a positive relationship with an adult who is not their parent promotes trust, respect, and valuable social skills.
A community provides a sense of belonging
Having a community provides a sense of belonging to a place or group of like minded individuals. A community provides children with a space to learn how to get along with people from all walks of life.
Helps build a safe environment for your child
Community involvement also provides a safe place that children can build and rely on in times of trouble. It also provides them with trusted adults that they can turn to when they need support or advice.
Community helps build a child’s self esteem
When a child feels valued by their peers and trusted adults in their lives, they become happy and more self-confident. This in turn, raises their self esteem. Children with high self esteem are more successful, and don’t let the inevitable challenges in life bring them down.
Helps develop career skills
Finally, community involvement can help your child network and learn about different skill sets and different types of jobs. This can help your child figure out what career path they want to take later in life.
Communities help develop support networks
Sometimes members of a community can provide support for a child in ways that parents can’t or won’t provide. A strong peer-to-peer group provides key support for children navigating early childhood, for example. Alternatively, a strong adult-child relationship can provide guidance in situations where the child doesn’t feel comfortable reaching out to a parent. Parent-to-parent relationships can be a key support network in a community as well.
What are ways to get your child involved in the community?
There are some key things to keep in mind when you decide to get your child involved in their community.
Make time for trusted friends and relatives
Set up opportunities for your child to spend time with other trusted adults, like their grandparents or trusted family friends. Forming positive relationships with these adults helps create a safe community environment as well as helps children learn different skills.
Let your child choose the community activity
The most important thing is to let your child pick the activity or activities that they wish to be involved in. Trying to get them involved in a community construction project when they enjoy the theater isn’t going to inspire them to stay involved.
Allow children to make choices
Children love feeling in charge. Allowing them to make choices helps them feel empowered and builds their confidence and self-trust. Also, don’t rush to do everything for them. Allow them to figure some things out for themselves.
A great way to get the whole family involved in the community is through volunteering and acts of kindness. Some great ideas include:
- Volunteer at your local soup kitchen
- Do a beach clean-up or planting trees to help the environment
- Do a sponsored walk or run for a charity that your child is fond of
- Donate items to a food bank
- Join a community group like Cubs, Boy or Girl Scouts
To find local charities near you, you can look online using resources such as https://greatnonprofits.org/. There are a wide variety of charities and organizations out there, your family will be sure to find one that will inspire you.
These are just some of the ways you can help your child get involved in their communities.
My Child Is Shy. How do I Get Them Involved in a Community?
Not every child will be willing to jump right into a new group setting or join an unfamiliar community outside of family. As mentioned, being a member of a community involves openness and vulnerability, giving as well as receiving. This can be very uncomfortable for some children, maybe more so than adults, who have the benefit of life experiences to guide them through unfamiliar settings. By a certain age, parents of shy children have usually experienced their children’s meltdowns or uncomfortable situations with their child in public or group settings that lead the parent to be just as hesitant about joining a community as the child. It is especially important for the parents of shy children to be patient, find the right environment for their child, and foster one-on-one connections.
Some suggestions for community involvement for shy children may include:
- Group sports: As contrary as it may sound, joining a group sport can be a great setting for your shy child to join a community. They won’t have the burden of being responsible for a win or a loss, yet can quietly work toward the team’s goal, and may even find a kindred spirit on their team.
- Mentoring programs: Many shy children are excellent students and learners. In many schools, there are peer mentoring or tutoring programs where shy children may find they excel in helping teach their fellow students, in an intimate, one-on-one setting. This will help give them confidence and foster connection.
- Online communities: There are many online groups that can be a great source of community for children who just don’t do well with face-to-face interactions. From gaming networks to hobbyist message boards, there are groups for anyone. It is vital to monitor your child’s online habits however, due to the risks involved.
Social Media: Threat or benefit for building communities?
Social media is now commonly used as a tool to bring communities together. School groups, church groups, charity organizations and other communities all use social media as outreach tools and to communicate with one another. Social media can expand a sense of community from beyond what’s typically a local phenomenon to a global one. However there are risks involved with social media, especially for children.
Social media can sow discord and separation as well as harmony and community. Parents need to be aware of what their child is exposed to on the internet, as many seemingly innocuous groups have an agenda of bias or seek to create an “us versus them” mentality.
In spite of the risks, it is undeniable that social media and the internet can be a great tool to foster community for a child. Almost any special interest, group or charity has a social media presence and/or message board online. From social networks made for children such as Spotlite, to message boards for certain hobbies; with research, parents can find appropriate internet resources for their child.
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Find out how belonging to a close-knit community helps your child grow and how you can include them in community led outreach.